While retailers and consumer-oriented commercial businesses embraced online marketing years ago, accounting practices have been slow to adopt digital marketing strategies. The pandemic has hastened adoption, but for most firms the move to digital marketing remains more reactive than proactive. Many of the digital tools and techniques remain unfamiliar to senior firm management.
This issue has been compounded by decades of accounting marketing tradition rooted in the belief that new business is best developed through referrals. However, while referrals still happen, they are happening less frequently. Accounting services buyers are increasingly likely to research and conduct business online. If you want to gain their attention, you’re going to have to do it through a screen.
Fortunately, there are a number of online solutions, channels and approaches that are proven to help firms like yours effectively reach and engage target buyers. To develop your own online marketing strategy, you’ll need to focus on two fundamental lead-generating drivers: the online tools and the digital content that attract your target audience.
Reaching new-business prospects: Online tools that work
Effective online marketing is underpinned by several web-based tools that attract prospects to the top of the sales funnel. Each of these can successfully drive lead generation if utilized correctly:
- Lead-generating website: Let’s face it. Most accounting websites are not dynamic, compelling marketing tools. They’re often jargon-filled, self-serving promotional vehicles focused on telling site visitors how great the firm is. To become a lead-generating machine, your website must clearly convey that your firm understands your prospects’ problems and needs and can provide solutions to address them. By offering potential clients valuable, objective information, you’re demonstrating what it would be like to work with you.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): The vast majority of business professionals use the web to research the services they need. However, they will not find you unless the web knows you’re there. To do that, you need to optimize the content on your website so search engines — and, consequently, prospects — can find you. This is referred to as organic search and is primarily driven by having useful, authoritative content available on your website. It helps if that content is original.
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: While organic search is one of the most valuable and effective tools for attracting prospects, PPC can help you buy your way onto search engine results pages. It’s typically less expensive than traditional space advertising because you only pay when someone clicks your link and you can track and analyze your results to help make your campaign even more effective.
- Online networking: This is the activity that takes place on social media. So while specific social media platforms (such as LinkedIn or Twitter) may be the actual tool, it’s the networking that happens on it that really engages with prospects. While the style of interaction may vary greatly from Twitter to LinkedIn to Facebook, it’s still about making the right connections with the right people. Just as with traditional networking, your level of success will be directly proportional to the amount of time and attention you invest in it.
Digital content: The fuel that drives your marketing engines
None of the above tools will work without relevant content to attract your target audience. Your content can take many forms, but several are particularly effective at attracting leads to your website and other online platforms:
- Industry research reports: These are excellent lead generators. They attract prospects with highly valuable information while building your visibility, credibility and brand value. It’s critical, though, to choose research topics that are of exceptional interest to your target audience. As an added bonus, research reports provide an outstanding opportunity to partner with an industry trade association or a noncompeting firm. This can help reduce your marketing cost and increase your credibility through the implied endorsement by the industry group.
- Webinars: Just like traditional seminars, webinars should be educational in nature — individuals will want to attend because they think they will learn something new and valuable about their issues or priorities. Webinars are typically offered free of charge. The value they provide to you is the registration information you gather from attendees, as well as market intelligence based on their questions and feedback, all of which can help you focus your marketing efforts and develop future topics.
- Marketing videos: Well-produced, educational videos are excellent marketing tools for accounting firms. They can attract and nurture leads by providing valuable information about subjects of interest and helpful explanations about complex accounting and financial topics. Videos are also ideal for showcasing the expertise and experience of various members of your team.
- White papers and e-books: Both of these are long-form, in-depth informational tools that make attractive pay-per-click offers and website giveaways in return for filling out a registration form. A little target audience research can quickly generate a list of appropriate topics of value that will attract your best prospects and encourage them to engage with your firm. A resource section on your website filled with e-books and white papers covering a wide range of valuable topics will go a long way in building your firm’s reputation as an industry expert and leader.
- Blogging and guest blogging: Blog posts are an excellent driver of leads to your website. Blog posts are a cornerstone of almost any SEO campaign, providing opportunities to publish and distribute keyword-focused content that will boost your search engine rankings and attract prospects to your website.
Guest blogging is a great way to broaden your reach. If you have great content, it’s worth pitching it to publications or blogs that feature guest posts. This type of “earned media” can give your search engine ranking a lift and funnel readers to your site when you target high-authority online publications.
If you don’t already have an online marketing strategy, now is definitely the time to develop one. Combining online and traditional marketing to create an effective, comprehensive marketing program is an outstanding way to build your firm’s visibility and generate significant growth.